We all drink our daily cup of coffee every morning and shudder to think what we would do without it. But do you ever think about where this coffee actually comes from? Coffee is only grown in tropical areas in the world, and these regions make up what is known as the Bean Belt. It runs through the area around the equator which is the band around the Earth between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. This region includes Central and South America, as well as Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
The coffee tree is a woody perennial evergreen covered with dark green, waxy leaves. They can grow up to 30 feet tall, but are usually kept shorter for easy harvesting and cultivation. After planting a coffee tree, it takes 3-4 years for it to become productive. It produces aromatic white blossoms, followed by immature beans and a year later matured coffee cherries appear. Each tree can produce up to 1 to 1.5 pounds of roasted coffee every season. Bet you never pictured this while drinking your morning coffee!
Coffee grows best in the tropical region of the Bean Belt because it prefers mild temperatures, lots of rain, rich soil, and shaded sun. The soil, climate, and altitude all have an effect on the taste of the coffee beans that are produced, so this is why coffee from each area in the region tastes different and unique. In Central America, the coffee tends to have fruity flavors such as apple, raspberry, or cherry with a hint of chocolate or a buttery finish. This results in a balanced cup because the flavors balance each other out. Guatemala and Costa Rican coffees are similar because they are light to medium-bodied, with bright acidity and fruit flavors. Peruvian coffees tend to be more medium-bodied with a floral and herbal flavor. South American coffees are medium to full-bodied. Coffee from Colombia has a caramel flavor with a nutty undertone, while Brazilian coffee is more exotic and heavy bodied, making it perfect for various espresso blends.
There are also two different varieties of coffee, Arabica and Robusta. Arabica coffee comes from the original Ethiopian coffee trees, and it results in mild and aromatic coffees. This variety accounts for about 70% of the world’s coffee production. This variety grows best at high altitudes with mild temperatures, and it will die with any kind of frost. The Robusta variety is a smaller and rounder bean than the Arabica variety. It makes up 30% of the world’s coffee production, and it is a heartier plant that can withstand higher temperatures and lower altitudes. The coffee produced from this variety is a bit more bitter-tasting with more caffeine than arabica beans. Robusta coffee trees can be found in Brazil or Southeast Asia.
So, now you know a little bit more about where your morning cup of coffee comes from and how it was produced. Hopefully this leads to even more appreciation and interest for coffee, because it definitely got our attention!